How Climate Action Can Reduce Poverty

If countries commit to a global development agenda that improves livelihoods in ways that support low-carbon and sustainable economic growth, it is possible to prevent climate change and end poverty.

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Climate change is already affecting every continent across the globe, and people living in developing countries will fare far worse than most in a warmer world, warns a March report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The report—“Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” authored by leading scientists from around the world—makes clear that there are many actions that local and national decision makers and the international community can take now to strengthen community resilience and reduce climate change risks and costs. The report also reveals that many actions to fight climate change and prepare for its unavoidable impacts will improve public health, safety, and livelihoods. An April IPCC report presents a host of sobering evidence revealing that if countries do not take immediate and ambitious steps to rein in global carbon pollution today, they will face crippling costs to do so in the future. The report identifies many different options that countries can pursue now to reduce emissions from energy production and use, transportation, and land use, among others; these options also provide energy access, reduce local air pollution, and support sustainable development.

Fortunately, countries around the world have a tremendous opportunity to design a new global development agenda that can rapidly accelerate progress toward tackling two of the world’s most pressing challenges—ending poverty and preventing catastrophic climate change. This new development agenda will kick into gear when the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs—eight voluntary goals agreed to in 2000 by leaders from 191 countries—expire in 2015. Once agreed upon, the post-2015 goals will serve as a road map through 2030 for countries, local governments, development institutions, and the private sector to stamp out poverty and support sustainable development. Where countries previously stopped short of fully integrating environmental concerns into the MDGs, they now have the chance to craft new voluntary development goals that do just that. As the new IPCC analyses expose, letting this opportunity pass by risks unraveling decades of progress against poverty, hunger, and economic insecurity. It will also leave future generations more vulnerable to extreme weather events that flatten communities and critical infrastructure, cause food insecurity, give rise to pollution-related illnesses, and disrupt livelihoods.

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